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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Awkward to drink from, hard to collect water from small un-flowing sources, not easy to use for multiple people or around camp
The Sawyer Squeeze is an innovative water filter that differs from typical pump models. It previously won our Best Buy award, but was de-throned by its little brother, the Sawyer Mini. The Mini is less expensive, much smaller and lighter, and easier to drink from than the Squeeze. Rather than pumping water through hoses like most other filters, the Squeeze is a compact filter that screws right on to a small mouth bottle and allows you to drink right through it, giving it one of the fastest treatment times of any other option we evaluated, unless you need to treat large quantities of water. If that is the case, the Sawyer Squeeze is not ideal, because squeezing water through the filter is tedious. It has many desirable features for a hiker or backpacker: simple to use, long lasting, small, and lightweight. The filter comes with three collapsible bottles of different sizes for the user to customize their water collection options or to allow them to gather a large quantity of water at once. Since it only weighs 2.7 ounces for the filter, it is a very enticing water treatment option for backpackers, rivaling Aquamira Water Treatment Drops since it doesn't use chemicals. It even competes with the SteriPen, except that it does not treat for viruses like UV treatments. The drawbacks are that it is awkward to drink from, the flow is not fast for squeezing water into pots or someone else's bottle, and it is difficult to collect water from small, non-flowing sources. It lasts for a million gallons, making it the most economical water treatment option.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking water treatment
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Differing from traditional pump filters, the Sawer Squeeze consists of a small filter that can screw onto small-mouthed bottles or to one of three different collapsible bags that come included with the filter. It is a lightweight, inexpensive, and compact treatment method that works well for personal use but is more difficult to treat water for groups.
Since there are no moving parts to this filter, it is unlikely to break or malfunction. Though after a weekend of hard use, we realized that the user has to be particular about screwing the filter onto the bottles, because the seal can get moved around and then leak. Like most other pump filters it is effective against protozoa, bacteria, and particulate, but does not treat for viruses.
It uses a 0.1 micron hollow fiber filter to strain out pathogens, and this pore size is smaller than all other filters we reviewed besides the First Need XL. This means that it can eliminate very small organisms.
The filter alone weighs 2.7 ounces, which is lighter by far than any other filter or UV treatment, and is even lighter than the entire aquamira set-up. However, it requires a small-mouthed bottle to attach to, or it does not function. Sawyer solved this problem brilliantly by included different sized collapsible bottles with the filter, which are extremely light for a water-carrying container. If you brought the Sawyer Squeeze and all 3 bottles with you, it would weigh only 5.1 ounces, which is still lighter than any other pump filter. However, the Sawyer Mini only weighs 1.4 ounces for the filter unit and can also be used to drink directly from a water source.
Time Before Drinking
Since you can drink directly through the filter, this is one of the quickest treatment options, and makes collection time particularly fast. Though if you want to cook with treated water, you can squirt directly from a bottle through the filter, and this is not very quick. The flow is not incredibly fast, and squeezing out of the bottles is not very efficient.
The primary downsides are that it is difficult to collect water in the bottles unless you have a free flowing source, and the Squeeze is not conducive to treating large volumes of water. It you are scooping from a lake or a creek where there is plenty of water, it works great. It you are trying to extract water from a silty, shallow puddle, it is much more challenging to fill your bottle than to use a pump filter to suck the water out. Using this filter to squeeze out large amounts of water at camp or for multiple people is very tedious and inefficient.
Ease of Use
This filter is so simple. You screw it onto one of the included bags or a small-mouthed water bottle, and either drink directly from it, or squirt it into a cook pot or other vessel. It is as immediate as drinking right from the Aqua Vessel, but with much better flow.
The one thing we did notice is that the filter holds water inside. If you unscrew it from your bottle and throw it in your pack, it leaks water everywhere while still holding enough water inside to make it considerably heavier. This can be fixed by blowing air into one of the bags, screwing the filter on, and pushing the water out by squeezing the air through the bottle, but this is a pain and not very easy to do if you have just filled all of your containers for the day.
We tested this filter on a three day backpacking trip and used it to treat water for 4 people. At first we were excited about the inexpensive and innovative system, but as we tried to treat enough water for 4 people at camp, the group quickly became frustrated with the system. It is awkward to drink straight from the filter, and if you want to treat water for someone else in their own personal container, squeezing the water through the filter is a huge pain. This is not the ideal treatment method for group camping, but for personal use it is lightweight and easy.
Durability/Uses Before Maintenance
Sawyer claims that this filter can treat up to a million gallons without needing to be replaced, which is essentially a lifetime of water treatment. It does require back-flushing from time to time, but that process is simple and relatively painless. The parts that may not last as long are the collapsible 'bag' bottles that comes with the filter, yet these are not vital to the function of the filter and can be easily replaced with similar versions by Platypus.
The Sawyer Squeeze leaves the taste of the water unchanged, delicious, and fresh. It cleans water without chemicals.
Since this method does not work very well for treating large volumes of water, or for treating water to put in other containers, it is best used by a single hiker on a backpacking trip. It is lightweight and small, easy to pack and carry, but not a good option for base camp or for multiple people.
At half the price of most of the other filters or UV water treatments in this review, this method is very wallet-friendly. What makes it even better is how long it lasts. Claiming that it can treat around a million gallons, you would be hard pressed to ever use this filter up. It could potentially last your lifetime. At $40 bucks, this is a steal.
For an even less expensive personal water treatment method, check out the LifeStraw. For around $20 you get a compact filter that weighs the same as the Sawyer. The LifeStraw has similar limitations in that it does not allow you to transfer treated water to another vessel, but it is even easier to drink through than the Sawyer. Even better, check out the Sawyer Mini. It costs $25 and only weighs 1.4 ounces.
Other Versions & Accessories
Personal Water Bottle Filter
Sawyer Fast Fill Adapter
— McKenzie Long
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 8, 2015
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